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Ten men Woking battle – but come up short

Alan Worth - 7th February 2015

Ten men Woking battle – but come up short Barnet 2 Woking 1
Vanarama Conference
7th February 2015

Referee Robert Whitton’s decision to reduce Woking to ten men with the dismissal of luckless Joe McNerney halfway through the first half proved to be the turning point. Woking had arrived in hope but departed no doubt frustrated that their battling efforts, particularly in the second half, had left them pointless. And all this after playing for sixty-five minutes with a man short.

Garry Hill was forced to make changes with the illness of James Clarke and Gez Sole and took the opportunity to give a first start to the returning Aswad Thomas. The former Card had an excellent game despite having to move from his more customary left back to the centre of defence with the loss of McNerney. The other change saw Keiran Murtagh return to the bench in place of Sole.

Woking lined up with Newton, Jones, McNerney and Thomas across the back, Ricketts and Payne in the centre of midfield, Banya and Arthur out wide with Rendell and Lafayette partnered up front.

The game took time to settle with both sides early on failing to make good use of the Hive’s excellent playing surface. Barnet, unsurprisingly, were quick to push long balls forward to the dangerous Akinde. His strength, aerial presence and pace made him more than a handful. But Joey Jones, partnering McNerney, in the centre of the defence largely coped well during these initial stages.

The Cards relied heavily on the speed of Charles Banya playing out wide on the right – one sweeping cross field pass to him from the excellent Josh Payne provided an early opportunity for Woking. The diminutive winger’s cross found Ross Lafayette but Barnet managed to clear their lines before he could bring the ball under control.

After fifteen minutes, a ball forward from Thomas was then knocked down by Lafayette to Scott Rendell but his short was powered over the bar.

And then on twenty-six minutes the games turning point and moment of real controversy. Another through ball found Akinde racing towards the penalty area. McNerney’s sliding challenge appeared to get something of the ball but the big Barnet forward came down. Referee Whitton pointed to the spot and then, to the consternation of the five hundred travelling Cards fans, produced a red card. Even some of the home supporters felt this a very harsh decision.

Akinde, the league’s leading goal scorer, picked himself up to convert the penalty, sending Jake Cole the wrong way.

Garry Hill quickly reshuffled his pack, bringing Kevin Betsy on to replace Lafayette, with the Cards forced to play with a single frontman. Chris Arthur, who had been playing on the left side of midfield, moved to left back.

Half-time: Barnet 1 Woking 0

The second half began with the Bees dominating possession but their second goal was something of a surprise. After five minutes a deflected back pass from Jones appeared to wrong foot Cole and the ball agonisingly deflected off a post and trickled into the net. With ten men and a two-goal deficit, the game now looked beyond the visitors.

Barnet were now dominant and continued to press in search of more goals. However, the Cards' re-jigged defence coped well and largely reduced the league leaders to long-range efforts.

At the other end a fierce Payne effort was saved low in front of his upright by Stack as he turned the ball away for a corner and then a Payne free-kick was headed back by Jones for Thomas to volley over.

Barnet had a good chance to further extend their lead when substitute Michael Gash was through one-on-one with Cole but the Cards keeper was out quickly to smother the ball. He then had to bat away a powerful shot from Weston that swerved viciously as the Bees continued to dominate.

Yemi Odubade, who had replaced Banya on the hour mark, then produced the one piece of real magic on this cold winter afternoon. His pace got him on the end of a ball pushed through from the Woking midfield. He roared past the Barnet defence and then with his left foot produced a magnificent finish, firing home across Stack and into the far corner of the net.

Roared on by their fans and seeking to take advantage of a suddenly jittery Barnet, the Cards threw everyone forward as they sought an unlikely equaliser. A long ball from Betsy again found the marauding Odubade but his snap shot was wide. Rendell was brought down on the edge of the box but referee Whitton waved away the Woking appeals.

Another excellent move saw Goddard’s long ball headed on by Rendell to Odubade on the left. He rolled the ball back across the box but Betsy’s shot was blocked. And then in in time added on a corner from the right saw mass panic in the Barnet box as the hosts struggled to clear their lines. A final rasping drive from Payne was just over the bar and the chance of an equaliser had gone.

This was a battling performance by Woking and, but for the sending off, they might well have come away with at least a point. As it is, they remain one place outside the play-offs. Garry Hill’s main concern will be how he covers the three-match absence of Joe McNerney.

Woking: Josh Payne, Adam Newton, Joe McNerney, Joey Jones, Aswad Thomas, Charles Banya (Yemi Odubade 62), Mark Ricketts (John Goddard 62), Josh Payne, Chris Arthur, Scott Rendell, Ross Lafayette (Kevin Betsy 34)

Unused subs: Keiran Murtagh, Andy Little

Goal: Yemi Odubade 79

Red Card: Joe McNerney 26
Cautions: Josh Payne 65, Yemi Odubade 90

Barnet: Graham Stack, Andy Yiadom, Elliott Johnson, Jack Saville, Bondz N’Gala, Curtis Weston, John Akinde, Charlie MacDonald (Micheal Gash 66), Lee Cook (David Stephens 89), Sam Togwell, Luisma Villa (Conor Clifford 40)

Unused subs: Sam Muggleton, Luke Gambin

Goals: John Akinde (pen) 27, Joey Jones og 50

Cautions: Luisma Villa 39,

Attendance: 2036

MOTM: Josh Payne – tireless in midfield and a number of excellent shots – could so easily have scored that elusive equaliser.
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